The Stupak Showdown

At the same time as President Obama has stepped up the pressure on Congress to “get it done” on health care reform, Rep. Bart Stupak, the author of the amendment banning abortion funding in the House health care bill, has issued a challenge of his own.

“Mr. president, put it in there,” the Michigan Democrat urged, referring to placing his amendment into the Senate bill, in an appearance on FOX Business.

Stupak pointed out that every poll on the topic of public funding for abortion in the U.S. has found the majority in favor of his funding restrictions. Therefore, he said, the president should show the same level of openness to his amendment that he boasted he had shown to some Republican ideas that were included in the bill.

“If we’re trying to reflect the will of the American people,” he said, “this certainly is one amendment where you can show your flexibility and actually do what the American people want: no public funding for abortion.”

Stupak also asserted that, “in its present form, the Senate health care bill is going nowhere in the House of Representatives.” On Thursday, Stupak confirmed to NBC’s Chris Matthews that about a dozen lawmakers who voted for the House bill would kill the abortion-expanding Senate version if it lacked his amendment.

Shifts in the House demographic since passing the House health bill last year means Democrat leaders need to net about four more votes from members of their own party who had previously voted against the House bill, to pass the Senate bill – in addition to winning over those dissatisfied with the upper chamber’s vastly more liberal version.

Tempers also appear to be rising elsewhere on Capitol Hill: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday shot back at the notion that she lacked the votes to push the Senate bill through the House, and expressed frustration when faced with the abortion issue.

“Let me say this: This is not about abortion! This is a bill about providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” Pelosi said Thursday.

Capitol Hill insiders cited by the Financial Times indicated that Pelosi may rely on threats to strip uncooperative Democrats of committee chairmanships.

Stupak’s challenge came the same day President Obama held a press conference to push the unpopular bill to the finish line, complete with a backdrop of white-coated individuals whom he introduced as medical professionals “who understand how important it is for us to make much needed changes in our health care system.”

“Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it,” the president declared, hinting that Democrats were “bring[ing] this journey to a close.”

“I, therefore, ask leaders in both houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”  As expected, Obama urged an “up or down” vote on health care reform, arguing in favor of using the controversial reconciliation tactic to bypass a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Yet pundits quickly skewered the president after news broke that Obama had nominated Scott Matheson, brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), to the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Rep. Matheson was among a handful of undecided lawmakers Obama invited to the White House Wednesday night to woo them into supporting the health care bill.

In light of the nomination, Allahpundit of the Hot Air blog recalled Obama’s words at the press conference: “I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform.”

“And so he will, so he will,” the blogger jabbed.

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